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Steve Hegede
5 stars POLLEN is a hard album to describe because every song offers something different. For example, one track is clearly influenced by GENTLE GIANT. Some of the other songs have more in common with ANGE. And the remaining songs have a mellow folk-influence. The vocals are in French, with a slight French-Canadian accent (you will notice it if you are only familiar with pure French). POLLEN is apparently out-of-print, but I'm sure there are some copies left somewhere (Syn-phonic, Laser's Edge, etc..) for those interested.

Report this review (#28539)
Posted Sunday, March 21, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars POLLEN were another fantastic 70's Quebecois (French Canadian) progressive rock abnd who managed to release one fantastic symphonic gem. Without a question this is one of my all time favourite albums from Canada's 70's scene. Like most of the Quebecois bands, the recipe is a mizture of rich melodies, symphonic overtones and veins of deep originality. POLLEN mixed deep tonal analog keyboards with great guitar and a solid combo of bass and drum interplay. Vocals are sung in French and offer some great expressionism and character. Hard to peg this one down exactly but one might draw allusions to a mix of classic GENESIS, NEKTAR and ELOY. For those who love lush yet fluid and ever changing rhythmic progressive rock will deeply love this album... it's a 10 out of 10 kids!
Report this review (#28541)
Posted Sunday, April 25, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
4 stars Pollen's only album is certainly highly rated among connoisseur progheads, a the album is sort of a one of a kind in Quebec at the time, except maybe Morse Code's three mid-70's album: clearly based upon Genesis, but not solely either, since some guitar parts will invariably make you think of Steve Howe. Personally this writer still experience difficulties calling this album exceptional: it does have undeniable qualities, but it is definitely too derivative of their main influences (including Morse Code). Actually listening to this album and Eden's(another Quebec symphonic group that released only one album), I get the uncomfortable feeling, that they are a diect link to the future (and yet unborn) neo-prog.

Aside from those aesthetics issues, it is hard to resist this album, which does reflect almost everything one loves in symphonic rock, from lovely ambiances to dramatic development and great lyrical content. About them lyrics, you should know that Lemay's French vocals are sounding like Quebecois (much the same way Morse Code or Harmonium) but they are easy to understand. This album is conceptual with one side called Sun and the other Moon (in French of course), but I miss the link to the (rather ugly) singular artwork. Clearly the cornerstone of the album is the 10-min+ closer with the full dramatics deployed to wrap up the album in a grandiose way. This album had received a mid-90's release on the tiny Kozak label (along with two of Maneige and both Conventum albums) and now all five are receiving another re-issue on the ProgQuebec label. Still a little too derivative to my tastes, Pollen is a sure hit for you if evident influences do not stop you from enjoying the album!

Report this review (#28542)
Posted Wednesday, July 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another very good re-issued vinyl to cd from Progquebec just arrived on the market (I have the vinyl at home and is not in top shape) so I was glad to buy this cd.They only have one (1976) and after that nothing.But like Harmonium-Morse Code-Maneige Dionysos for prog music and Offenbach(hard rock) and Beau Dommage(pop).Pollen is a must for any prog music collection.It's a mix of all the good british bands of the 70's but in french.The singer is not the perfect one but okay after a few spins and to my taste the only weak track is L'indien (4:53).And what is kind of funny is that the musical director of Céline Dion=Claude Lemay (mégo) was the keyboard player (so you could say that in those days he made good music HUM...HUM...) I give 4 stars to this cd and like I said it's a must for prog lovers(if you like ELP-GENESIS-YES-GENTLE GIANT) YOU WILL LIKE THIS ALBUM AND IT'S VERY RARE SO HURRY. POTS
Report this review (#40001)
Posted Friday, July 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the first to the last note, this album it's deliciuos, a superb example of what is prog rock. The first three songs are reallu great, but the "trilogy" made by the songs "Tout l´temps", "Vivre la mort" and "La femme ailée" are out of any ranking. Simply fantastic, songs full of little details with astonishing keyboard arrangements and of course, leaded by the charming voice of Jacques Rivest. Pollen is a classic, neccesary in any prog collection because this LP is not just history also one of the bests in the genre that we call symphonic prog.
Report this review (#41113)
Posted Sunday, July 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars For those who like their prog with a folkish vein, this is an absolute essential masterpiece. Thier music is so individual, it is hard to determine their influences, but I detect a little Yes, some Gentle Giant and particularly some early PFM. The CD is only 38 minutes, six songs, but is is true treat. The mixture of instruments, electric & accoustic guitar, base, keyboards, drums, flute and even vibes is wonderful. There are no weak songs, but my favorites were L'etoile and La femme ailee. One minute you hear some melodic accoustic folk that transforms into highly charged, electric but still very melodic, symphonic prog. I highly recommend this one.
Report this review (#46553)
Posted Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars One of the stronger offerings from the fertile mid-70's Montréal scene. On their one and only release, Pollen offer pure, unadulterated sympho-prog, with the usual (for Quebec) Gentle Giant influence, with some Genesis and Yes thrown in. But they aren't clones or rip-off artists, this feels very unique and transcends its influences in a big way.

Tom Rivest's vocals are very French, in a Canadian way rather than Parisian, and suit the music well, particularly on the more balladic moments such as "L'étoile" and "L'indien", which he imparts with a searching, almost desperate quality. Keyboards are handled by one Claude Lemay, who seems to favour a synth-heavy sound which, oddly, has a timeless feel, never becoming too "techy" or sci-fi. His synth textures are never less than tasteful, always serving the music.

Really, little more needs to be said other than the fact that no follow-up ever materialized (unless you count Rivest's disappointing solo albums) was regrettable. Fans of excellently-made symphonic prog, buy without hesitation.

Report this review (#49887)
Posted Monday, October 3, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Only album from a forgotten Québécois prog band. The cover art prepares you for something psychedelical and stuff but, in fact, the album has absolutely nothing to do with its cover in my opinion. The music is definitely more symphonic prog. As usual with most of Québec's bands, their music is blended with a lot of folk elements. That's why I think that the cover doesn't fit with the music. Folk doesn't go along with a kind of alien woman lighted by spotlights. Anyways, on with the actual music now.

This album is a forgotten gem and is different from all other Québec's 70s albums because the music is clearly influenced by Genesis. However, they still develop their own style and they do it marvelously. The keyboards dominate the album but the guitar plays a lot of great parts. The music is highly emotionnal (at least to someone who can understand the lyrics) and we go through a lot of completely emotions in the listening process. For example, Tout l'temps is so happy it makes you wanna run in a sunny field but L'Indien makes you cry. I like the voice of Jacques Rivest. He is not your usual symphonic singer but his voice is charming. He has a strong Québec's accent by the way.

The second side of the album contains the best songs in my opinion. The longer La femme ailée is really a masterpiece. The album also starts out strong with Vieux corps de vie d'ange but the first side is weaker. The weakest track may be the L'indien but it's still quite good. The album is enjoyable from the start to the the finish.

I won't say that this album is a masterpiece but I will say that this album is great and that I recommend it to anyone who really likes symphonic or the genuine Québec sound. The only sad point about it is that the keyboard player now plays with Céline Dion... Too bad.

4,5 stars really!


Report this review (#81099)
Posted Tuesday, June 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I still find it hard to believe that this is an one off album ... but it's true that Pollen just recorded just the one album back in 1976 and were then heard no more. The mid 70s were indeed a great time for Quebecois prog (Come to think of it even my favourite Rush albums came out around this time too!). I'll agree that Harmonium's music projects a more original character, but Pollen's best moments are outstanding. Led by the superb keyboard playing of the underrated Claude Lemay, Pollen's sole album is full of scintillating symphonic prog.

Take the opener Vieux Corps De Vie D´ange for starters ... the build-up is unbelievable with the band leaving vocalist Jacques Tom Rivest to do his stuff, before entering with aplomb. The tightness of some of the angular playing is thrilling, and as a keyboard fan I love hearing piano, organ and synth all used superbly on the same track (not sure if it is just Lemay because Rivest and guitarist Richard Lemoyne are also credited with keyboards). A lovely vibraphone solo, swirling spacey synth and a suitably desparing conclusion round off this perfect piece.

L´étoile, L'indien and the 10 minute closer La Femme Ailée are beautiful pastoral works that show that Pollen could do the acoustic guitar thing just as well as Harmonium, although the former eventually moves into a another melancholy spacey synth/organ moment and even a harpischord gets thrown into the magical brew. L´indien is the "simplest" piece on the album, but that doesn't stop it from being truly exquisite, while La Femme Ailée really takes off on the back of some sizzling synth work, and becomes a piece that alternately stomps and meanders. It's nice to see drummer Sylvain Coutu really shine on the latter half of this track.

Although every song is stellar, arguably my favourite song of all is Tout l´temps, a gorgeous short little piece that bursts into life with a fascinating series of harpischord and organ runs, and throws in a great vocal melody and a kick-ass synth solo to boot! Vivre la mort is suitably Gothic with lots of funky discordant organ work and a guitar solo from Lemoyne that would melt the heart of any Steve Howe fan.

I can see people making references to Yes and Genesis at various times during this album, but in truth there isn't a specific band that's quite like Pollen. This is mouth-watering music meant to be consumed by one and all. ... 91% on the MPV scale

Report this review (#82114)
Posted Tuesday, June 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars POLLEN is an amazing canadian band which released this self-titled album, one of the definitive masterpieces of symphonic prog. Mixing folk and symphonic tendencies, Pollen has to rank as one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever made, since they manage to be energetic and touching at the same time, never making boring music or falling into the self-indulgence trap which buried the credit of some of the other bands of this genre.

Starting with an energetic and catchy song, we clearly hear some ELP like sounding music but done in a much better way. The music is coherent and manages to be interesting during it's entire lenght. We have then two numbers that are more at the emotional side, both are sublime, hauntingly moving, amazing! The next two are more energetic and the less appealing of the album, but they are by no means bad. The closing track displays a grand finale to this masterwork, with its powerful ending and epic delivery.

They released only this album, but passed their message very well. Their short career was worthy enough since they created their unique album which turned out to be a masterpiece. And while not a "perfect" masterpiece, Pollen still manages to be a work that should be listened by everyone who is into prog, or even by those who like more simple music, since the folky songs here are pretty accesible.

Report this review (#111659)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Pollen, this canadian band who sounds to me like something between Genesis and Gentle Giant. Not bad, but not very special album either. A 3 star to me. Some tracks who are more in front then others are: vieux corps de vie d'ange and tout l'temps. A good album but non essential, and will fit well to Genesis fans (second period) and maybe at some point to Gentle Giant.
Report this review (#125306)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The ultra prog music from the Quebec province is very keyboards oriented, featuring among others zigzagging moog solos, organ and piano: the sound is surprisingly modern for the year, avoiding to fall into deja vu outdated mix of organ & piano arrangements. The omnipresent electric guitar is very participating, contributing to produce the melodies with the help of the keyboards: that's why this album is well beyond progressive hard rock. The guitar sound is very varied & pleasant to listen. Actually, Pollen has nothing to envy from the major progressive bands of the 70's. Among the influences, let's mention Yes (especially the electric guitar sound & style), Genesis circa Foxtrot for the organ, Selling England By The Pound for the drums, and the major Italian progressive rock artists of the 70's for some moog keyboards. There are some impressive percussions of the xylophone family and some flute parts slightly reminding Genesis. Sometimes, the music takes all the available room, floating and shining with all its grandeur and colour. The percussive electric piano on "Tout l´temps" (I do not think it is a clavinet) is very pleasant and addictive: the fast & loaded keyboards are well seconded by very participating bass and drums. The best track is probably "La femme ailée", featuring discrete guitar arrangements a la Metallica's "Call Of K'Tulu". It starts slowly & beautifuly; the fast second part is absolutely progressive and captivating, containing a solemn & deranged church organ: the final last minute is just JAW-DROPPING, belonging to the best moments in the prog history, goosebumps guaranteed!

Rating: 4.5 stars

Report this review (#125493)
Posted Monday, June 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Really good Canadian prog.......

Pollen were one of those bands that few people ever heard of outside of prog circles, and yet they were very talented. The band were together for several years in the 70s touring with better-known acts and no doubt upstaging them on occasion. Hailing from Quebec, they released only one album in their glory days but man is it something. Despite a somewhat corny album cover, the music contained on their album is sophisticated, beautiful symphonic prog that will delight fans of Ange, Yes, Harmonium, and Genesis. While the vocals are in French and therefore not understandable to me, I read that they cover such diverse topics as urbanization, Catholicism, life from other planets, and our own existences after death. But topics aside, the real story is the well played, lush, prog rock that shines with analog keyboards, great guitar work, and varied percussion. Flutes and vibes also add nice touches to the good melodies. Arrangements are complex and interesting and the mood of the music is fairly upbeat. Their band logo is adorned with the leaf of the marijuana plant perhaps giving the listener the band's "secret handshake" on maximizing the Pollen listening experience in their view. Geefed up or not this is a good one, folks.

"Vieux corps de vie d'ange" begins with a Gentle Giant sounding section but thankfully they quickly make their own sound evident. Pollen may have bits and pieces that sound like their heroes but they certainly don't dwell on them. This song wastes little time with foreplay, you are instantly knocked out by fantastic keyboard riffs, great drumming and guitar, and Rivest's emotional vocals. "L'etoile" begins with acoustic guitar picking and volume controlled electric leads and keyboards. The keys get more intense as the drums enter and the whole track is quite satisfying. "L'indien" is quieter starting with acoustic and softer vocal and sounding like Harmonium. A lovely, folksy tune. In the second half there are some keyboards adding a little background and some vocal harmony at the end. "Tout'l temps" is an upbeat rocker with a distinctive repeating keyboard run that seems a bit cheesy but the track will appeal to vintage keyboard fans. "Vivre la mort" sounds like Ange to me with a very showy and extroverted theatrical approach, the band having fun with an upbeat "bouncy" song. Halfway through the drums stop and the tone shifts to a spacey keyboard/guitar solo section that is marvelous. A minute later the drums return and the song builds into a propulsive ending with keys and guitars trading licks. Good stuff. "La femme ailee" begins with beautiful classical guitar soon joined by keyboards that remind me of Pentacle. It's a wistful, eyes to the night sky feeling. Around 3 minutes there is a pause and we hear some wind blowing. The group fades back in again with acoustic and vocal first and then the whole band sweeps back in, in a very majestic almost Styx-like symph-rock sound circa Grand Illusion. Then that section stops and we get a solo organ section before the band returns with a rhythmic riffing part. The final two minutes are simply an exercise in brilliant symphonic climax that will please any fan of the genre.exciting passages and very thoughtful, crisp playing.

I am giving this great re-issue 4.25 stars and recommending it to all prog fans. The booklet contains nice pictures and history along with lyrics in French. You won't be disappointed if you are a fan of the groups I mention above. It's a real shame they didn't remain together for more albums but this release is "the only recorded material available of our incredible adventure" per vocalist Tom Rivest.

Report this review (#148735)
Posted Saturday, November 3, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Excellent mid-70's symphonic prog by this canadian band which comes from Quebec,a region of Canada where the prog rock scene was very strong in the 70's...To tell the truth by the first 2 or 3 listens I didn't like this album that much...But then every time I listened to it the music seemed slowly to unfold so the result is a thrilling symphonic album, very close to a masterpiece...The vocals of Jacques Tom Rivest are emotional and theatrical, a very good performer indeed...Three of the four members play keyboards so it is reasonable that this is the prominent instrument of the album, where the three of them have made an excellent work...The album contains also some nice solos, acoustic guitar passages as well as some nice flute work...Main influences of the band are GENESIS and YES along with the legends of the French prog rock scene ANGE...Highlights of the album the beautiful symphonic ballad ''L' Indien'' along with the most dark track of the disc ''Vivre la mort''

A must have for all prog fans , especially for those who love keyboard driven 70's symphonic prog...Check this rare gem without hesitation...4 stars for me...

Report this review (#172877)
Posted Monday, June 2, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars Interesting that they originally planned to use two keyboardists but one of the two they had lined up decided to play in a band called HARMONIUM instead. These guys are incredible musicians. Lots of synths, passionate vocals and intricate instrumental work. Impressive.

"Vieux Corps De Vie D'Ange" starts off with keyboards and French vocals. I like the organ here too. We some uptempo moments before settling down briefly after a minute.The guitar before 2 minutes is fantastic. These guys play so well. A calm after 3 minutes with organ coming in followed by flute, vocals, piano then xylophone 5 minutes in. Passionate vocals and guitar before it calms down with piano to end it. Incredible track. "L'Etoile" opens with flute before acoustic guitar and vocals arrive. A mellow and pleasant sound is the result. Vocal melodies before 2 minutes followed by laughter. The fuller sound 3 1/2 minutes in is so uplifting.

"L'Indien" features acoustic guitar and reserved vocals. Vocal melodies come in later. "Tout'l Temps" is an uptempo track with lots of keys.The drumming is killer. "Vivre La Mort" is my favourite song on here. The organ and vocals early sound excellent in this catchy song. A change 3 minutes in as intricate guitar melodies lead the way.This reminds me of GENESIS. Nice. "La Femme Ailee" opens with fragile vocals and acoustic guitar. Vocal melodies and a calm follow. The wind is blowing 3 minutes in, then the song kicks into gear after 4 minutes. Organ before 7 minutes as the tempo picks back up with drums leading the way. Some prominant guitar late.

Another amazing album from Quebec.

Report this review (#174108)
Posted Monday, June 16, 2008 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars One and only album by this fantastic Quebecois band: "Pollen" is a tremendous progressive opus by Pollen, an ensemble of very talented musicians/writers that mastered the art of art-rock more proficiently than many other bands that are usually more praised among prog circles and that have released more albums. Pollen created a stylish sound that incorporated a reasonable amount of complex ornaments in the frameworks of appealing compositional ideas. One can get the feeling that Pollen keeps a strong set of stylistic connections with Sloche, Et Cetera and Harmonium, and the reason for this perception is that this quartet pretty much encapsulates many recurrent facets that were heavily present in Quebec's prog scene. The album kicks off with 'Vieux corps de vie d'ange', wih bears a solemn aura of elegante extravagante, pretty much a-la Gentle Giant (with an Et Cetera filter), additionally combined with the majesty of good old Genesis. The way in which the guitar and synth are combined is simple masterful, as is the vibraphone solo (somewhat influenced by that in Gentle Giant's 'Pantagruel's Nativity'). 'L'étoile' reiterates the opener's meditative vibe but with a different attitude, which is more pastoral-driven. Given that its first half is dominated by dual acoustic guitars punctuated by flute and soft electric guitar, one might feel suspicious about how it happened that the guys from Harmonium sequestered the Pollen guys and usurped their recording schedule. Later on, things get livelier, with clavinet and Moog interventions that even sound a bit Mediterranean (just like PFM, Le Orme, early Atoll, Gotic). 'L'indien' also displays pastoral pursuits, only driven toward a more intimate realm - this is like a hybrid of Anthony Phillips and early Rägnarok, plus some early Harmonium as well. It's a beautiful song, indeed, with a moving vibe that doesn't kill its relaxing mood. The album's second half starts with the vivacious 'Tout l'temps'. The band takes full advantage of the 3 ½ minute span, predominantly using a 5/4 tempo for the track's development. The amalgams of organ and synth are very Minnear-like, although the eerie sound mix makes the keyboard input closer to Sloche. 'Vivre la Mort' echoes the preceding track's vitality and takes it to a rockier trend: one can describe it as a mixture of 1971-Yes and first album-BMS, with the (usual) leanings toward the GG standard. The album's last 10 ½ minutes are occupied by 'La Femme Ailée'. This piece starts with abundantly acoustic flairs of pastoral nature, in a way emulating the languid spirit of track 3. A few seconds before arriving at the 3 minute mark, there's this wind effect that announces the arrival of a sheer symphonic passage: with a well-ordained mixture of "Moon Madness"-era Camel and Sloche's symphonic side, this passage makes good use of the basically simple motifs and raises them to a crafty majestic level. Then things become a bit weird (interesting nonetheless) with a slightly creepy organ solo, which sounds quite Gothic. What should come after this surprising twist?: just the coda, which reprises some of the motifs in the second section and makes them a bit more intense. This is a big finale for a great album, or even more than great, masterful - "Pollen" is the kind of lost gem that deserves to be rescued from the shades of the 70s recording industry and taken into every good progressive collection. From my part, there is nothing left to say.
Report this review (#202439)
Posted Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Pollen's one and only album is a forgotten gem that more people need to investigate... they are as talented as any of the big-name bands. By far my favorite French-Canadian band, they're similar in style to the classic British Symphonic Prog bands mixed with the unique charm of French bands like Atoll, Pentacle, and Carpe Diem. 'Vieux corps de vie d´ange' starts off similar to Gentle Giant, with excellent dueling-Moog-and-guitar play; the first half of the song is very aggressive and complex. The musicianship is incredibly tight on every song, but here especially. The second half of the song is more subtle and is in a classic Symphonic Prog mold with wonderful synth playing, powerful droning organs, and lovely piano solos. The keyboardist is brilliant on every song. 'L´étoile' is slower; featuring beautiful acoustic guitars and Moog playing. It has the most touching and memorable vocal refrain on the entire album. The lyrics are all in French so i haven't a clue what he's saying... but i can tell it's heartfelt. The singer doesn't have the strongest voice, but it's pleasant in tone and he sings with great conviction and emotion. 'L´indien' is an atmospheric and meditative acoustic ballad; dream-like and blue... I would say the mood is a combination of 'Dust in the Wind' and 'Entangled' by Genesis. The second half of he album contains my two favorite songs: 'Tout l´temps' is upbeat with an almost 'Hatfield and the North' Canterbury-like feel... followed by 'Vivre la mort' which is much darker and reminds me somehow of Russian folk music. This song is led by an amazing organ riff and a relentless driving beat... growing more aggressive as the song goes, this contains some of the best Moog solos i've ever heard in my life! The intro of the final song 'La femme ailée' bears a passing resemblance to Pollen's fellow countrymen 'Harmonium'. I highly recommend this to all Symphonic Prog fans... especially those who like the French strain of the genre. 4.5 stars.
Report this review (#202544)
Posted Thursday, February 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album is one of those hidden gems in this scene. The prog rock scene is full of them and it is difficult to find them. I was alerted to it by browsing the ProgArchives, the letter "P" section. The album soon landed on my doorstep.

The vocals are in French, this being a French-Canadian band. The music comes across as a bit Italian Prog Rock scene to me. PFM springs to mind. But the music is mostly a blend of their own style, GENESIS, YES, PENTACLE, CATHEDRAL and GENTLE GIANT. The music is therefore pretty varied. It changes from uptempo and pretty adventerous to moody pastorial ballads. The music is vocals and keyboards driven and the musicianship is pretty amazing as far as I can see.

This is not an over-the-top symphonic prog album. It is more song orientated than classical music orientated. It is still an album I really like. It is a fresh breath of air, compared to the English/American symphonic prog bands. POLLEN has their own style and it is a shame this is their only official album. This is an excellent addition to any prog rock collection. In particular; to my own collection.

4 stars

Report this review (#216321)
Posted Sunday, May 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars So many treasures in 70's Québec scene! POLLEN is one of them who grabs me more in spite of not being the most original. The evident basis comes from Yes/Genesis formula; it works pretty with the French theatrical (PENTACLE, MONA LISA) influence.

The music is in surreal/ fantastic field with great vocals, maybe more accessible, so with repeated listens it tends to run out, unlike more adventurous Canadian SLOCHE, MANEIGE (with GG influence) or SYMPHONIC SLAM (the 3 first linked tracks are quite original and over shine the rest of the album, they are prog classics to me) or TRUE MYTH. I'd like to thank the Canadian guys who created PA site and all maintenance world team!

My favorite Pollen tracks are "vivre la mort" and "la femme ailée" (the conclusion is a killer hymn). But I like the entire album, delicious prog ! I'm glad this obscure album gets many reviews here. There are more obscure and underrated Québecois like EDEN (***) and MILKWEED (Sergio Gonçalves failed to conclude themes, so I give only **). My vinyl pick up is broken, I intend to review later HARMONIUM " l' heptade" I want to listen my double vinyl brazilian edition (I really don't know how, but there was a little edition here, believe me !) carefully, I know this is the most original or folk Canadian band. Oh yeah I love "si on avait?" but give my 5 stars to Sloche "j'un oeil".

Report this review (#230535)
Posted Saturday, August 8, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars This album features sublime instrumental parts, wholly reminiscent of the "Trespass" era of whom you might know.

It is another story during some vocals "interludes". I don't know if Rivest was forcing his abilities, but as far as I'm concerned he was quite average in his vocal duties (except during the superb "L'Etoile") and his accent is quite difficult to bear. But to come back to "L' Etoile", the magnificent keyboard melody raises this song to another level, indeed.

There aren't any weak tracks featured on this album and thanks to some wonderful parts it really keeps up on the good side. At times the music turns out to be more jazz oriented ("Tout L'Temps" - Always) although some instrumental parts are totally borrowed to "Genesis". Too much really.

"Vivre La Mort" is quite an experience though: wild beat, heavy organ for a while, combined with such delicate guitar for a while. The closing section is an absolute and brilliant hymn to electric guitar prog solo. A great moment of music for sure.

The closing epic "La Femme Ailée" is quite a good musical moment to share: complex instrumental interplay (KC is not too far, even if "Genesis" is again present at almost any corner). A very good way to close this effort. A combination of "Cinema Show" with some church organ, scary mood and some great guitar. What else do we need?

I would rate this album with seven out of ten because it borrows a lot to some giants we all love. Since this more accurate rating is still not available, I will raise it to four stars.

Report this review (#243518)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars A one album wonder from the Quebec scene, Pollen's sole album finds them playing a style of symphonic prog structured heavily around the guitar work of Richard Lemoyne, whose style sounds to me a bit like a blend between Steve Hackett and Steve Howe's. As others have noted, a pastoral Genesis influence is appreciable, though to my ears Pollen seem to take a somewhat more accessible sound than classic-era Genesis. As others have noted, the vocals on the album are arguably the weak point, but otherwise this is competently performed (if not stellar) symphonic prog which should be of particular interest to those exploring the Quebec prog scene.
Report this review (#550014)
Posted Friday, October 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Why this album hasn't gotten more attention est une mystère misterioso. I can't figure. A wonderful collection of original music using familiar Genesis sounds from the Nursery Cryme-through-Selling England by the Pound period.

The opener, "Vieux Corps de vie d´Ange" (8/10) has quite a wonderful climax section?incredibly powerful singing.

"L'étoile" (9/10) has a very Genesis feel to it from the very start with its picked 12-strings and Hackett-like volume pedaled electric guitar notes. As the air turns more festive a Rhodes piano takes a turn at some simple solo. Then, at 2:25, for a brief time, full scale unleash of the Selling England by the Pound/Dark Side of the Moon effect. Beautiful song.

"L'indien" (7/10) is a more laid-back almost droning song from the HARMONIUM school of acoustic-based prog. Pretty; no complaints; probably would be more meaningful and impactful were I to try to listen to lyrics.

"Tout le temps" (8/10) has a little GENTLE GIANT feel and sound to it?though not so complex or sophisticated, just similar sounds. Love the dueling keyboards in the middle?harpsichord and organ! A little 'Harold the Barrel" feel there! Add horn-delay keyboard and you've got a little prog magic going on there!

"Vivre la mort" (8/10) starts out a little too much like a French "Get 'em Out by Friday" (a Genesis song that I've never really liked). Luckily, the song is saved by a simply marvelous second half instrumental section in which all players are adding to a rather YES-like electronic mayhem.

"La femme ailée" (10/10) begins very delicately with some classical guitar accompanying the breathy Kenny Loggins-like vocalist. Vocal harmonies and organ are added to great effect while the acoustic guitar continues to steal the show. Beautiful! Brilliant, delicate, multi-layered, complex "Cinema Show"-like song!

This album has grown on my greatly since I first heard it?to the point that I hold it right up there alongside?or above?Nursery Cryme and Voyage of the Acolyte?the two albums it most reminds me of. This is a masterpiece of prog!

Report this review (#615724)
Posted Sunday, January 22, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Phenomenal.

Again, being from Quebec, I snobbed the song of my own land, and I repent. Sincerely, the Quebec scene of the 70's is simply astonishing, revealing gems one after another. Pollen is not an exception, and I would say they should be on top of the list for beginners. They sound very Tony Banks' work in Genesis, and since he's my favorite keys player ever, I cannot but clap my hands in synch with the music. They also manage to blend a wee bit of Gentle Giant and ELP, but the main melody maker is the fabulous keyboard playing of Rivest! He's prodigious!

Speaking french myself I cannot pass through the lyrics without commenting: have they been disappointed by religion? They have a strong chip on the shoulder of the Catholic Church, with provoking lyrics (for the time) saying that Priests fooled them and the people have to pay the bill now. Considering the mentality of Quebec, this must have been a kick in the arse for the concerned and an appeal to youngsters who didn't want to follow their parents' religion. Wow indeed.

For a dynamic dose of keys and some of the best Genesis riffs (they never wrote), grab this cookie when you see it. No baloney.

Report this review (#897121)
Posted Monday, January 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars What it is about prog that is so endearing to me is a number of things, as for most people. Taste is highly subjective but also connected to timing and emotional state at the time of listening. Maybe I wasn't attentive enough the first time I heard Pollen. I guess I wasn't. Really.

It's been a long time coming, me breaking this album and taking time to grasp it properly. I acquired it a long time ago and have grasped it, bit by bit, over the years. At first I found it a bit too awkward, askew and frankly too metallic in flavor. I missed the warmth. Now, however, I do know what I think of the album and thus I feel ready to deliver my judgement. The debut album by Pollen is something extraordinaire. That is a genuine belief of mine, although I obviously "only" award it three stars. I will tell you why I think like I do.

The instrumentation and delivery of it all is outstanding. The boys in the band possess a tone and identiity that is theirs, yet they do show off quite an ability to master other styles of prog connected to certain bands, in not so small a part Genesis, I would think. There is complexity enough to keep any prog fan happy but there's also quite alot of accessibility. The blend of those two spectrums make the album very enjoyable indeed. I think Pollen is unique enough to stand out, yet, like I wrote, their inspiration or inspirations are quite clear.

The album kicks off with "Vieux corps de vie d´ange". The thing is that this particular track holds a riff (or introductional theme) that is gloriously askew and if not dissonant, then at least severely demented. It is scary, agressive and threatening. When the vocals kick in, which they do almost from the start, it only adds to the general feeling of discomfort. It may sound as if I'm not that keen on this track but I am. It is a great, thumping piece of music. Dark, threatening and powerful. Lovely start of a record and prog in the best of ways. After "Vieux corps de vie d ´ange" three tracks follow that, though by no means bad, still do not carry the inspiration and fire of the first song. Enjoyable but that is it.

And then they come, the last two of the bunch: "Vivre la mort" and "La femme ailée". What we have here, beloved proggers, are two amazing tracks. "Vivre la mort" starts with a great organ riff and vocals. I am getting reminded of Genesis "Trespass" album here and that is not bad, since Pollen are elaborate enough to envelop and develop that sound to something of their own. I have no words, really. Simply fabolous.

The last track, "La femme ailée", is the true epic of the album with really lovely keyboard passages and great vocals. The keyboards remind me of Rick Wakeman and the sound is close to Yes at times. Complex, melodic and shifting.

Conclusion: Out of the six tracks on the album three are amazing and the rest is okay. Perfectly executed but not really all that memorable. The last two tracks are the true winners, full of prog ability and wonder. I love those two tracks to bits and have not been able to crawl my way out of it's grip for days. The album is, however, not flawless. After hearing it I seldom feel I want to hear it all over again. I pick out, mostly, the last two and maybe I'll head for the opening track, once I've enjoyed those. Maybe the album isn't varied enough? Well, it is. It just doesn't hit it off completely with me. Still, I would really recommend anyone to get acquainted with the album. It is a good album, even brilliant at times. 50% of the times, actually. That is why award the album, three stars. Brilliant at times, just not solid enough.

Report this review (#1043313)
Posted Tuesday, September 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review nº 227

Pollen - self titled

4.5/5 actually

A canadian band singing in french sounding like rock progressivo italiano? Yes. What a fabulous symphonic album. Beautiful album art indeed. Pollen music offers symphonic electricity and light technical rock, adding acoustic folk and pastoral tendencies. The final solution is an almost full star album. They're playing real rock but seems they're gettin soft with their instrument. It's a great album to listen when you're not in the mood for something heavy but still want some high grade prog rock. The vocals reminds me of Eloy, but french lyrics. The first track (Vieux corps de vie d´ange) and the last (La femme ailée) are the lenghty tracks, and seems the band effort grows higher there, and they have the most memorable moments of the work. Well, it is not an innovative album, but pleasent, very very well done featuring plenty of sapid tips. Reccomended for fans of the R.P.I. genre. It shares similarities with artists such as Museo Rosenbach.

Report this review (#1420935)
Posted Thursday, May 28, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The music alone could be worthy of five stars. Almost. This is Pollen, a French Canadian group formed in 1971 who opened for the likes of Gentle Giant and Camel before finally getting their one and only album out in 1976. They broke up before the year was through.

The music is symphonic prog and in my opinion sounds closest to some of classic Genesis' busiest and heavier moments, though there are quieter moments of flute, piano, classical guitar and organ. There are also some spacey effects that turn up in the first two tracks. Songs like "Vieux corps de vie d'ange" and "La femme ailée" give the band room to stretch out and explore their musical potential in both heavy and light areas. But diversity runs throughout the album with Genesis influences cropping up here and there.

But while the music makes itself easily worthy of four or five stars with some top notch symphonic prog, it's the vocals that I'm afraid pull the album down a little. Jacques Tom Rivest puts a lot of power into his singing and at best manages to almost do a French Peter Gabriel ("L'étoile") or pack some sweet emotion in at the right moment ("L'indien"). Unfortunately there are a good number of times where his vocals sound forced but lacking something. Perhaps he could have left out some of the oohs, aahhh, and other vocalizations meant to emphasis feeling.

Nevertheless, his singing is not so off that it's excruciating to hear. It's just that of all the Rock progressif québécois bands I've heard so far (seven and counting), Monsieur Rivest's vocals are a notch or two below the others.

Aside from that, most of the music here is quite a ride. My personal favourite is "Vivre la mort" which I guess would be "Long Live Death" in English. The beginning is a bit unassuming with its organ and Rivest's impassioned vocals. But once he lets rip with a rather gripping scream, the music takes a turn and becomes what is for me some spine chillingly excellent prog rock. There's one part where the synthesizer sears in with such subtlety it's like a laser cutting into the base of my skull. Exciting stuff!

Highly recommended for most of the music. Hopefully you can deal with the vocals well enough.

Report this review (#1530774)
Posted Saturday, February 20, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars Some excellent original tracks.

Formed by musicians who would later on, separately, become important figures (often behind-the-scenes) in the Quebec music scene, this one-off album from then-young group Pollen contains some excellent music. However, the best tunes come at the end of the vinyl sides, while the tracks opening each side are the weakest, which means it takes a bit longer to discover the gems here. I agree with other reviewers that many parts of this album have a derivative feel, and that the writing is not yet mature, which was (and still is) fairly normal for a debut album. There are sections that bring to mind Genesis, and Gentle Giant, whose 1974 tour they opened for (they also shared the bill with Caravan in Quebec). The least musical track here, in my opinion, is actually the opening song "Vieux Corps de Vie D'Ange", so the casual listener might not be motivated to listen to the album too often. But this band does have its own sound, particularly on the tunes that close each side (of the original vinyl album). Of course, these for me are the highlights, and I would even say they should make it into the list of classic Quebec pieces. These harken more to other Quebec music of the time than to the British groups. The tune that closes side 1, "L'Indien", is really a folk tune, not even rock, but it is to me the best song on the album. Really a beautiful song, and original - very much their own voice. While I agree that the singing in general across the album is not quite on par with the best, it is still solid, and on this song it works very well. Meanwhile, the track that closes the album, "La Femme Ailee", is a 10- minute mini-epic with some great dark organ playing, original writing, and really excellent drumming. There are also sections of "L'etoile" and "Tout'l temps" that are great, with really nice arpeggiated guitar/keys parts and some difficult drumming (the drummer, Sylvian Coutu, was in the original lineup of Quebec fusion group Uzeb). So, while overall the album is not likely to blow anyone away, it does contain some excellent musical tracks, and is thus worth picking up. I give this album 7.5 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which translates to high-ish 3 PA stars.

Report this review (#1865992)
Posted Thursday, January 11, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars Review Nº 176

"Pollen" is the eponymous debut album of the Canadian progressive rock group Pollen and was released in 1976. In 1972, Tom Rivest and Lemoyne decided to form a progressive rock group. The band's name came by chance when, in the kitchen of the house where they lived together, the musicians spotted a jar of flower pollen. In 1973, Pollen gave their first live performance at Cégep, Maisonneuve. The group's concerts featured sophisticated light shows, visual elements and scenic effects of rare beauty. In 1974, Pollen made the tour of Québec with Gentle Giant. During 1975, Pollen continued performing to sell out shows at several venues like Cinéma Outremont, L'Évêché and Café Campus.

In 1976, Pollen released their self titled debut album, containing some of the best and most impressive progressive rock music in North America. One can say that Pollen was one of Québec's biggest progressive acts in the mid 70's, with Harmonium and Maneige. But their music is more purely rooted in the symphonic genre than their countrymen, whose music is more folk-oriented, Harmonium, or more fusion, Maneige. The band married tight musicianship and dazzling special effects and could be perceived as Québec's most symphonic contribution to the world of progressive rock. The album was launched during a show at the Grand Théatre de Québec where Pollen shared the headline act with Caravan.

Pollen split-up in 1976. So, "Pollen" is the only living testament under the Pollen's name, and represents one of the brightest jewels in the Québecois progressive crown. When I'm saying that "Pollen" is the only album of the band is really true. However, Tom Rivest released in 1979 his solo eponymous debut and only album with his band mates Lemoyne and Lemay. For some reason, Pollen never managed to release a second album, but the story somehow continued with the release of that solo album because some songs were already written for the second band's album.

The line up on the album is Jacques Tom Rivest (lead vocals, bass, acoustic guitar and keyboards), Richard Lemoyne (electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards and bass), Claude Lemay (backing vocals, keyboards, flute, vibraphone and bass) and Sylvain Coutu (drums, vibraphone and percussion).

"Pollen" has six tracks. The first track "Vieux Corps De Vie D'Ange" immediately sets the tone for the album and represents an excellent example of the unique musical style of Pollen. The track offers up a very dramatic mixture of pomp and symphonic filled with gorgeous keyboard excursions and extremely dramatic vocals from Rivest. This is really a great opener for the album. The second track "L'Étoile" follows and veers the album into a mellower direction. It opens with flute before the acoustic guitar and of the arriving of vocals. A mellow and pleasant sound is the result. This is a very interesting piece which demonstrates the band's ability to write more radio-friendly numbers. The third track "L'Indien" is another ballad that features acoustic guitar and nice vocals. Rivest does manages to put his own stamp on this one and his melancholic crooning and acoustic guitar is achingly poignant throughout the number. This is another excellent track that maintains the high quality level of the album. The fourth track "Tout L'Temps" is a quirky up-tempo number built on a jazz-like drum beat and swirling keyboards. The band once again shows a penchant for being able to write pop pieces with symphonic flair. The song ends on a particularly high note with some very tasty keyboards. The fifth track "Vivre La Mort" is one of the highlights of the album. The musical framework of the piece is built upon some powerful drumming and theatrical keyboard chords as the track builds to a crescendo. Halfway, through the number, we get a taste of Pollen's truly symphonic nature. Guitars and keys coalesce as the song builds up a head of steam before pushing the listener over the top in a fine display of tight musicianship. The sixth track "La Femme Ailée" is the epic of the album. It begins with some gentle guitar passages and delicate vocals. Slowly, the track builds in intensity until explodes in grandiose fashion. The closing 6 minutes represents its finest moment. Complex tempo changes and superlative instrumental prowess are the order of the day. Somber church organ cedes to powerful drum fills and moog madness and some excellent lead guitar before returning to the track's main theme. It closes the album in a grand style.

Conclusion: Hopefully, I've been able to express that Pollen, especially with the final long track, is one of the best symphonic progressive rock acts of the 70's, out of Europe. It can be reported with no failures and for friends of the 70's, a full recommendation can be given. Thus they offered in the French speaking Canadian province of Quebec one of the best progressive rock albums and one of the best introductions to Québec's prosperous progressive rock scene of the mid late of the 70's. This is the kind of albums that deserve to be rescued from the shades of the 70's recording industry and taken into every good progressive music collection. For lovers of the classic progressive rock of the 70's, this album should definitely be for them, especially for those who like the French strain of the genre. So, enjoy it, really.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#1917510)
Posted Wednesday, April 25, 2018 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been to Quebec a few times, and I love the robust music scene there, especially some of the fantastic jazz fusion artists. I happened upon this old prog gem during my last visit, and a worthy addition to the prog canon it is. Pollen's self-titled album is a one-off affair with French-Canadian vocals that remind me of PFM or some of the other Rock Progressivo Italiano bands of the 1970's. As an "only album", I was a bit disappointed that it only contained 38 minutes of music. But there is a full album sound to it all, and it holds the symphonic prog lover's interest plenty well. I'll provide the obligatory band similitudes: Genesis and Gentle Giant predominantly, but hints of Nektar and England as well. Add the French vocals, and you get a pretty unique stew. This is keyboard driven prog with a very good guitarist - in fact, there are a few guitar-led instrumentals that really made me sit up and pay attention. (These guys were good!) Great cd cover art; and the newest release has some great info and additional pics of the band too. Good shtuff....
Report this review (#2439430)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2020 | Review Permalink

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